by Emily Conrad
Sometimes, as I wait for an answer to prayer, faith comes easy and hope flourishes. I pray for favor and leading and ask others to do the same, expectant.
But other times, a sort of hush falls over me.
God already knows my deepest needs and this lingering request of mine. I know in my head that God is good and God cares. Despite the title of this blog post, I know, too, that He always answers prayer (just not necessarily how I want Him to). But despite this, I begin to feel forgotten and overlooked. I hear of God’s love, deliverance, healing, and miraculous power, but if those things are real, why doesn’t God move on my behalf?
The Sunday school answer is He has a better plan, but…
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12, NET)
When I get discouraged, I might continue to pray for other things, but I hesitate to mention again the unfulfilled longing to God and to those who could help me lift it up.
Silence becomes a tactic for not looking at the mess and doubts surrounding my unanswered prayer request too closely.
When Brooklyn, the heroine, sees a miraculous answer to prayer, she says the miracle “means God loves me. I was beginning to doubt. This felt like a punishment for something I couldn’t figure out, and that seemed so cruel. I know it’s wrong to doubt. I just—well, with the way things were turning out…”
My valley has not been as deep and painful as hers, admittedly, but miracles are not only the stuff of fiction. God could miraculously answer my prayer. He just hasn’t.
But choosing silence on the subject with God doesn’t work. I’ve found silence spreads. It mutes my other prayers. It reaches cold fingers into my writing. It weakens my faith.
So, instead, it seems best to confront the problem by asking the difficult question:
When you believe in the God of miracles, but the miracle doesn’t come, what then?
Remember the Truth
And the truth is, our idea of miracles is not the only, or even the most striking, way God shows His love for us.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were brought before King Nebuchadnezzar because they would not bow down and pay homage to a statue as the king had ordered.
The penalty for this was that they would be thrown into a blazing furnace.
When Nebuchadnezzar questions them, they reply: “If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if he does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.” (Daniel 3:17-18, NET)
Certainly their prayer was that God would deliver them, and yet they stood strong even as they acknowledged that the decision was in God’s hands and that either way, they would gladly be loyal to Him.
This is the kind of “even if” faith I’m talking about in my blog’s tagline. Faith that flourishes, even if. Even if God doesn’t do with my life what I think He should. Even if I suffer for His name. Even if His dreams for me are different than my dreams for myself.
Jesus died on a cross for me. That means He loves me.
Whatever happens with my prayer request, my eternity is secure in the hands of Christ. No other miracle compares.
Day after day, the persistent widow kept after the unjust judge. This is the story Jesus told to teach his disciples how to pray. Surely, He knew our humanity, and the types of doubts we grow when we harbor unfulfilled longings. Surely, He knew we’d be tempted to wonder if God was as just and faithful as we’ve been told.
He reminds us in no uncertain terms that God is just. So, keep coming. If an unjust judge takes pity on the widow, our loving and just God hears our prayers. He invites us to pray continually, cast our cares on Him, and not give up.
“Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them? I tell you, he will give them justice speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” – Words of Jesus, Luke 18:7-8, NET
One way we show our faith? By continuing to come to Him in prayer. Doing so, regardless of circumstances, is an ongoing statement of belief that He can and will provide the best for His children.
When Moses was called to persistence he didn’t have the strength for, others held up his arms so the battle could be won. (See Exodus 17:8-13.)
I hadn’t deeply examined my feelings on prayer and my waiting request until after I quietly mentioned my request one more time to a group of praying friends.
It’d been a while since I’d mentioned it there, and I hesitated to bring it up, so when I did, I kept it brief. Just a mention. I figured that would be how it was lifted up, too. Just a mention. A footnote beneath the more pressing, fresher requests.
Instead, a friend dove into a heartfelt prayer over it. As I listened to her fervent prayer and the specific requests she made on my behalf, I realized what had been going on in my heart. I noticed the ways I’d stopped believing and trusting. I noticed the doubts that had begun to put down roots.
And I was reminded again that I believe in a God of miracles. A God who cares and who will not fail me. Ever.
We have never brought a request to God too many times.
He may ask us to wait, but never without purpose. He may say no, but never without a better plan.
We are His children, and when we ask Him for bread, He will not give us a snake. (See Matthew 7:7-11.) He knows our needs—our truest needs, not just those we petition Him for—and He will provide.
Along those lines, perhaps He recognized that morning, when I brought up my prayer request to my friends again, that my greatest need wasn’t the very thing I’d been praying for. Instead, He saw my need for encouragement and raised up just the voice I needed to hear to keep going.
Is that a miracle? You know what? Close enough for me. Especially considering everything else He’s given me besides.
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